By John Goreham
Driving home from her appointment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Mickey was thinking bucket list. A former nurse herself, she knew what her diagnosis could mean. Nearly back to her home in suburbs, she spotted a man putting a "For Sale" sign on an unusual silver roadster. She pulled over.
The man was the second owner of a 1966 Datsun 1600 Fairlady, one of the rarest roadsters in America. She decided to buy the car right then. All she asked of the owner was the chance to have the car looked at by someone she trusted. She took it to her brother, a mechanic and car collector, who told her to buy the car before he even popped the hood. He said, “If you don’t buy it I will!”
The ’66 Datsun 1600 was the third generation of roadsters from Nissan. By ‘66 it had evolved to have a 96 hp engine due in part to its larger displacement and twin carbs. The car has an independent front suspension and front disc brakes. The transmission is a four-speed manual. Rather than just one top, the car has the hard-top shown in the images, a soft-top, a soft split top to allow just one side to be open, and a soft top with a tonneau cover. Mickey has one of each.
This particular car began its life in the dry, salt-free climate of California. That is likely one big reason it exists to this day. After 30 years of ownership, a new owner in the Boston area bought the car and pampered it for nine years before Mickey happened upon it while considering what she wanted to do in her life before her illness could stop her.
Shortly after she took ownership of the 1600 Fairlady, Mickey decided she should have the vehicle completely gone over and the engine and other mechanical parts rebuilt or refurbished as needed. She turned to Mark and George at G&M Services in Millis, MA. The team gave the car the full workover, but in the end, all it needed was a couple of oil seals and a bit of wiring work. Upon picking up her car, Mickey took one look at George and asked him “Are you feeling OK?” Nurses know. As fate would have it, the Datsun was the last car that George ever worked on and he passed within the week.
We spotted the car at Mark’s garage when Mickey brought it in for help with the alternator. At any other shop a roadster like this would stick out, but Mark has vintage Alfa Romeos, Fiats, and Triumphs come in pretty regularly. Mark put us in touch with Mickey who was thrilled to share her car story with the CarTalk community. Mark tells us that working on the Datsun is easy because it is very similar to period Triumphs and MG’s with one exception – the carbs are on the opposite side of the engine.
Mickey has so much history on this car she could start a museum. In fact, one of her most notable possession is a signature obtained by the car’s second owner at the Larz Anderson Museum in Brookline. During an exhibit day featuring Datsun cars and roadsters, none other than Yutaka Katayama, Nissan’s first president, and the father of the Datsun/Nissan Z cars stopped to take a close look. Of the dozen or so 1960’s Datsun 1600s in attendance that day Mr. Katayama asked just one owner to pop the hood so that he might sign what he considered to be a perfectly original car.
Mickey’s collection also includes a Playboy Magazine review for the 1968 version of her car, which she likes to point out says “Entertainment for Men.”
The Datsun has been on road trips all over America. Mickey told us, “I’ve owned Porsches, Mercedes cars, and classic Cadillacs, but nothing turned heads like this car.” The car draws admirers almost too well. Besides hovering over the car and leaning into it to take pictures, Mickey says “I’ve come back to the car after leaving it for just a few minutes and found people sitting in it.”
Taking a short video of the Datsun as Mickey moved it around the property for a picture it was obvious she can drive a stick like ringing a bell. We asked Mickey how she learned and she told us “I grew up working on that farm right there (pointing to one of the last remaining farms in Metro West Boston). I learned to drive stick when I was 11. The farm used a ‘44 Ford flatbed Coca-Cola truck to haul hay.” We asked Mickey if she had learned anything from the car. She answered laughing, “Yeah, maybe not the best car to teach a nephew to drive a manual in.”
Mickey doesn’t believe that her finding the Datsun was accidental. She credits her faith in God with finding the car and for her cancer’s remission. She likes to think that she was meant to take the road ahead one day at a time with the silver roadster.
Have you ever felt that you were destined to find a certain car? If so, we'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
(all photos courtesy of John Goreham and Mickey)